The 33 **1/2

Dramatization of the Chilean miners’ catastrophe in 2010 isn’t always engaging, but is inspiring overall.

Is it worth $10? Yes

It’s a horrible ordeal, but a fantastic premise for a movie: Imagine being trapped in a confined area 2,300 feet below the surface, with temperatures nearing 100 degrees and food in scarce supply. No sunlight, little hope, just one of “The 33” men who’re essentially buried alive and waiting for a slow, painful death to take its course.

If you recall hearing about Chilean miners in October 2010, you have a pretty good idea how this ends. If not you should brace yourself for a story of survival and rescue and love and faith that director Patricia Riggen ably tells with clear command of the material.

Based on Hector Tobar’s book “Deep Down Dark” and the true events that inspired it, “The 33” begins in August 2010 as we get a quick glimpse into the lives of the miners who’re soon to be trapped below the surface in the Atacama Desert in Chile. The principals are: Mario (Antonio Banderas), the leader; Don Lucho (Lou Diamond Phillips), the foreman who’s ignored when he informs his  boss the mines aren’t safe; Alex (Mario Casas), who’s about to have a baby; Yonni (Oscar Nunez), whose wife and mistress (Adriana Barraza and Elizabeth De Razzo) provide ample comic relief; and Dario (Juan Pablo Raba), who in one of the weaker subplots refuses to speak to his sister Maria (Juliette Binoche).

As they mine for gold and copper below the desert sand, the ground starts to shake. Rumbling is heard. Falling rocks are seen. Soon the entire mine is frighteningly collapsing on top of them. They load into a truck with an open bed and, interestingly, smartly, drive further down to “The Refuge,” a makeshift habitat with three days worth of food and drink. They arrive safely, but now have two Empire State Buildings’ worth of rock on top of them and the undeniable fear that this is where they will die.

The rescue efforts are hardly quick or decisive. Minister of Mining Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro) seems clueless of how to get them out, even though he’s, you know, the Minister of Mining. With President Sebastian Pinera (Bob Gunton) putting pressure on Golborne as the world watches, engineer Andre Sougarret (Gabriel Byrne) is called in and drilling to reach the men commences. Meanwhile, family members set up camp right there in the desert, with a makeshift community of tents, food and even a temporary school constructed.

As Riggen shifts between the miners struggling to survive and the rescuers struggling to rescue them, a unified theme of support emerges in both locations. Down below, the men allow Mario to be a leader regarding rationing food and staying alive, and because he’s played by Antonio Banderas Mario has the presence and authority to be convincing. Similarly, the families, rescue workers, Chilean government and people all over the world (perhaps you were one of them!) pay close attention to the trapped workers and show their support with around-the-clock attention to news coverage, prayer, etc. It’s odd that a horribly traumatic occurrence would bring people together, but it does here.

“The 33” feels oddly sedate at times, but has its stellar moments and the comic relief comes often enough to keep things from getting too glum. The PG-13 rating ensures the images will not be too graphic, which is good given the state of desperation reached. The performances are solid and it’s easy to root for all the miners to emerge safely. The ineptitude of the rescuers is occasionally frustrating, especially when they contemplate giving up, but in the final analysis the filmmakers have done the story justice and honored the 33 men who endured such an unthinkable situation.

Did you know?
***Spoiler warning*** It took about 15-20 minutes for each miner to make the ascent to the surface inside a specially designed capsule. Source:

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